Graffiti, it's a serious problem here in Rockford, with ties to gangs and violence. Law enforcement and city leaders met with Rockford residents Tuesday night to brainstorm how to wipe out the problem.
Graffiti has become an all too common sight throughout Rockford. Community members say they're tired of dealing with damage to their property. But more than that, they worry about the dangers graffiti often signals.
"You can't have gangs without graffiti. It's a way to mark their territory and if they mark their territory the other gang members from the other gang comes and tag it up, you know, its just a war of turf I guess," says Efrain Mayorga, a member of the Rockford youth group, the N-Factor.
Mayorga wants the city to come up with more constructive activities to give kids options beyond turning to gangs.
"Dances, maybe more opportunities so they can go to school, internships, more jobs available, more decent jobs," says Mayorga.
The youth group, the N-Factor is the city's biggest push to reach kids. But Mayorga says it's not involving the most troubled teens in the area. Fifth Ward Alderman Victory Bell asked Mayorga and his friends to list five steps they want the city to take to reach out to others.
"I do intend to sit down with them and hear those five things that they think are major and see if we can't begin to address them, you know maybe we have some committees on the west side that really work in concert with the city," says Alderman Bell.
Rockford police officers say graffiti arrests are on the rise. They soon hope to plant surveillance cameras in hotspot areas to catch criminals in the act.
"If they see us they stop what they're doing and they take off, if we can see them without them seeing us, it'd be a nice way to be able to all of a sudden we're there," says Rockford Deputy Police Chief Lori Sweeney.
Rockford police are in the process of applying for state grants to fund those cameras. If you spot graffiti in your neighborhood, call the city's Graffitit Hotline at 815-961-3243 to have it removed.